Summer will soon be here and everyone will be itching to go to the beach to soak in some vitamin D. One of the beach essentials that comes to our minds is sunscreen. As conscious consumers, our sunscreens should shield the skin from harmful UV rays while not damaging the environment. The best eco-friendly sunscreens are the way to go for a fun-filled and conscious summer day.
Here are our top picks for the best eco-friendly sunscreens:
Why is regular sunscreen no good?
Regular sunscreens that are not eco-friendly usually contain harmful and potentially toxic ingredients that are bad both for the environment and the skin and overall health.
Also, to keep marine life safe, the key is to use SPF that uses UVA and UVB filters instead of the chemicals typically contained in the regular SPFs.
Some of the toxic ingredients that are included in regular sunscreens include:
If you are unaware of the health consequences of these ingredients, feel free to refer to the reports regarding the toxicity of these chemicals.
These ingredients are added to the product to “protect” our skin from sun damage. But our concern goes further - it is the damage it does to the environment. But what harm can sunscreen do to the environment?
Most sunscreen is washed off in tourist areas like beaches. Once these chemicals get into the ocean, they threaten coral reefs. Coral reefs are essential to support marine ecosystems and to protect the coasts from wave damage. Also, coral reefs offer protection to marine life.
This makes it essential to save coral reefs, which gives us even more reason to choose eco-friendly sunscreens. The chemicals in regular sunscreen can damage coral’s DNA, which kills the corals. It also increases coral bleaching - when the coral releases the algae that grow on it. Coral and algae depend on each other for survival, so when algae are separated from coral, the coral starves and dies.
Here are some of the eco-friendly sunscreens that you can look out for
Finding a compatible sunscreen can be pretty tricky - some leave a white tint, while some can cause breakouts or clog pores on sensitive skin. But sunscreen is essential for keeping us safe from sun damage. Switching to eco-friendly sunscreen is an excellent option to protect your skin and the environment.
Sunscreens available in the US
Alex McIntosh, Founder of Thrive Care
Alex McIntosh came to Costa Rica to find a way to start a skincare line based on plants and a business that would improve the vitality of the land. He soon collaborated with Laura Arce, the director of R&D at Thrive. Laura says that creating and designing products was a challenge - not only does it have to be effective and healthy, but it has to be plant-based.
About the products
Thrive Natural Moisturising Mineral Face Sunscreen contains non-nano zinc oxide with spectrum SPF 30 and protects from UVB and UVA rays. Besides protecting the skin from the sun's rays, it also helps repair skin damage.
The cream also helps to reduce redness or irritation, thanks to the antioxidant ingredients - Wakame seaweed and Tazman pepper. Moreover, the brand has all-natural additives harvested from local Costa Rican farms that have a mission to improve. The products offered by Thrive are reef-safe, vegan, cruelty-free and GMO-free.
Buy here: Amazon
#2 Safe Sea
John Andrews, Founder of Safe Sea
Captain John Andrews is the founder of Safe Sea. He is an avid boater who has lived on the sea throughout his life. The captain started the company to make the beach safer. Marine scientists and biotechnologists were also part of the founding team. Extensive research and clinical trials have enabled the business to create unique products that protect jellyfish and corals.
Safe Sea sunscreen
The original Safe Sea lotion formula is ideal for divers. The product detracts jellyfish and sea lice while protecting the diver from the sun’s rays. Safe Sea has a unique formula combined with UVA/UVB SPF protection, making it a perfect solution for a beach day. The products come in 40 SPF and 50+ SPF. It is pretty water-resistant. The product is also clinically registered and is approved by FDA.
Buy Now: Amazon
#3 Reef Repair
Simon Ilett, Founder of Reef Repair
Simon Illet is on a mission to make sunscreen without ingredients that can potentially damage reefs. Thanks to research on the effects of cosmetic ingredients, more people see the need for using environmentally safe sunscreen. But that’s the catch - there is insufficient research into what ingredients should be avoided. Simon says that finding a reef-safe sunscreen has been quite a task, next to impossible. Reef Safe aims to bridge that gap.
In my opinion, Reef Repair went ahead to develop a formula in their way, which was quite an empowering move. Reef Repair is a cruelty-free formula with biodegradable plastics and recycled bottle materials.
The circular economy concept is something that Reef Repair should be chosen for:
- Reef Repair is a cruelty-free sunscreen - one that has not been tested on animals.
- The manufacturing process re-purposes waste generated by the manufacturing process.
- The Reef Repair shrink wrap is made from biodegradable plastic - BIOLEFIN.
- Reef Repair Haircare products are 100% vegan.
- The cream is also non-whitening. The skin absorbs the cream while protecting the environment
- The formula is non-oily and does not clog the pores, and doesn’t get unpleasantly sweaty.
Buy here: Amazon
Bill Whyte, Founder of WS Badger
WS Badger was founded by Bill Whyte, 23 years ago. He had an idea to create a natural balm to soften his chapped hands . He had planned to start a mission-driven business that was not just for people but was also eco-friendly, known as a unique company for its culture and family-oriented approach. Badger is a certified B Corp that also wants to meet the ethical standards of transparency.
Badger eco-friendly sunscreen
Banger’s zinc oxide is non-nano which means that the sunscreen is reef safe and eco friendly.
Initially, the Badger sunscreen goes on white. Still, it doesn’t leave behind a pale residue as you rub it in, which is surprising compared to other counterparts with high zinc oxide concentrations.
Buy here: Amazon
Maxine J Chapman, Founder of Surfdurt
Surfdurt was started around 3-4 years back in a Tupperware container. It was a side project that Maxine worked on along with her dad, a chemist from Hawaii. They successfully created a sunblock cream/lotion that works without contributing to pollution or killing corals .
Surfdurt sunscreen products
Apart from clever use of the word “durt”, the sunscreen is made from 11 food-grade ingredients - all of which are theoretically edible. Surfdurt does not contain any synthetic ingredients and is very safe. It also includes certified organic ingredients like coconut and avocado oil. Moreover, the sunscreen is made in America and is manufactured at a solar-powered unit.
Buy here: Amazon
Sunscreens available in the UK
Julia Beyer, Karl and Hampus, Founders of Suntribe
Julia moved to Sweden for an entrepreneurship course where she also met Karl and Hampus. While she was looking to set up her own business with environmental values, she realised how big the problem is with conventional sunscreens for the environment. This was further confirmed by Karl, a surf teacher in Portugal. The trio decided to work on a safe and clean alternative for the environment and humans.
Suntribe sunscreen product
The Suntribe sunscreen is a 100% reef safe and biodegradable sunscreen packed in a sustainable tube made from sugarcane! It is also effective at protecting from UVA and UVB rays. The plant-sourced sunscreen has a faint coconut and cocoa scent. It can be applied easily on the skin without feeling oily or over moisturised. The only drawback of this product is that it is pretty expensive - however, its quality is unbeatable.
Buy here: Amazon
Terra Robinson, Founder of Back to Nature
Terra is an anaesthetic skincare specialist, plant geologist, beauty advisor and herbalist. She studied plants for almost 7 years before founding Back 2 Nature. All of their products are 100% certified organic and designed for the skin's excellent health.
Back 2 Nature sunscreen product
All the ingredients used in Back 2 Nature are plant-sourced and certified organic. Moreover, because of Terra’s experience with plants, the product is also quite effective. The ingredients are non-toxic, vegan, cruelty-free, reef safe and free from chemicals that can potentially harm the environment.
Buy here: Amazon
Kate Solomon, Founder of Babo Botanicals
Babo Botanicals was initially started in 2010 by Kate Solomon, a young mother who was searching for safe and effective products for children. The company soon launched premium skincare products, best known for suncare and hair care solutions - especially for children.
Babo Botanicals sunscreen
Babo Botanicals sunscreen is relatively lightweight and luminous. It does not leave any residue and is made from clean ingredients. It is not quite as non-greasy as claimed, but it is manageable.
Buy here: Amazon
What should you look for in a natural and eco-friendly sunscreen?
- The term “reef-friendly” is not regulated, so we suggest looking for ingredients that can be trusted. It is also essential to look at the “active ingredients” to ensure that the products do not contain harmful chemicals that can potentially harm the environment.
- Check the broad spectrum - The products need to protect against both UVA and UVB rays
- It is also recommended to use a mineral-based product suitable for humans and the environment.
- It should also contain nano-sized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
Most mineral sunscreens contain zinc oxide, which helps protect against UV rays and is considered reef safe.
These sunblock ingredients, which include oxybenzone and octinoxate, harm coral reefs. There's no denying that suncream is a vital element of our outdoor gear, but how could we safeguard both our skin and nature?
We need to know which sunscreens are detrimental to marine life and safe for the reef. Particularly while visiting major water sports destinations. Having a good sunscreen that protects us from harmful rays in important - but not at the cost of nature!